Who Are You Going To Follow In Life?

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John 13:1 – 17

13 1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love.  2 It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.” 8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” 9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

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10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you are clean, but that isn’t true of everyone here.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. 14 And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. 17 You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

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It is clear from this passage that Jesus knew with absolute certainty, where he had come from, and the authority that he possessed.  He states for us here in verse 14 that he is both the disciples’ Lord and their Teacher.  He is to be listened to and he is to be obeyed.  And he knew that he had come from God, his Father, and that he would be returning to heaven to be with his Father once again.

It would be great if all of us had this kind of certainty in our lives.  More importantly, it would be very good if more people would realize that this life is not “all there is” and then bang, nothing.  No, there is a reality beyond this life and this world, a spiritual realm where both God exists, but also his arch enemy, the Devil.  There are two great spiritual Beings that live in the beyond, and yet they are with us here in the present, in the “Now”.

And every one of us has got to make a choice as to whom we are going to serve with our lives, which will then determine for us our eternal destiny.  Will we choose a life of blessing with God the Father?  … or a life of bitter despair of helplessness, hopelessness and eternal separation from God?  These are the choices that face all of us now, and it is in fact the most important choice of our entire life.

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What prompts me to write these thoughts come from a few things in our passage above.  Notice how this English New Living Translation version identifies the Agent behind the betrayal of Jesus that Judas makes.  It says in verse 2, “The Devil had already enticed Judas….to betray Jesus.”  We don’t talk very much about the Devil in our churches today.  Why is that?  Have we forgotten that from the very beginning of time, the Devil, that evil serpent in the Garden, has been at work to lead all people into a rebellion against God, starting with Adam and Eve.

It says here that the Devil “enticed” Judas to betray Jesus for a little bit of money.  Judas will have to give account of himself when he stands before the judgment throne of God.  While it is true that Satan loves to lead people into sin, still it was Judas’ choice to give in to this temptation of desiring silver coins in his pocket rather than submission to Jesus as Lord.

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Jesus shows us the better way.  The path to a blessed life, right now and also in the life to come, is to submit to the Father in obedience, and to His Son Jesus.  And also to submit to serving others, rather than serving one’s self.  This passage above says that Jesus showed his disciples “the full extent of his love” for them.  How did he do that?  He gave them the example that even the greatest person is only truly great when he values others higher than himself and is willing to serve others out of a spirit of love and humility.

So ask yourself this question then?  Whose example are you following right now?  Are you like Judas and only looking out for yourself, even if it costs someone else dearly?  Or are you like Jesus, and walking the path of humility, love and helping to serve the needs of others around you.  The first path may benefit you in the short-term, but leads to death.  The second path will bring blessings now, and for all eternity.  I think the choice is very clear.

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Staying Busy For The Lord – Pt. 1

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“Wow!!  It is the middle of May already!”  It is easy for me to think these words as it is hard to believe that I have been in Papua New Guinea for four months now.  This is the longest I have stayed overseas doing mission work since our family left East Africa six years ago.  And I will be in PNG for two more months before I take a break and go home to Canada to be with family and friends.

There is no question that I have been “staying busy” since I landed in Madang in January.  Or as some might say, I have been “staying out of trouble”.  J  I am sure that the people who have been regularly reading my articles here on The Listening Post have noticed that I have slowed down on the number of articles I have written.  For over two years, I was posting three articles a week.  Then by the New Year it went to two articles.  Now I hope to post one new article each week, probably on each Thursday.

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“So what has kept me so busy?” you ask.  Let me tell you about the wonderful things that God has done and is doing in and through my life.  First though, let me remind you and any new readers as to why it is so amazing that I am very active right now in PNG.  The short story is that an illness flared up in my life back in 2008, a genetically inherited disease called Mitochondrial Myopathy, that impacted me to the point of forcing me to use walking poles or arm support crutches to walk around even very short distances, like 100 yards.

My life changed drastically at that point, having just come back from PNG and having to run through the airport to catch my next plane.  But just as dramatically, and in a positive way, I am now walking around our mission office over here in Madang without any difficulties, and have even been able to walk a couple of blocks down to a supply store, without needing to use any support device whatsoever.

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 “So what brought this about?” you ask.  Two important things: the power of God, and the power of prayer.  In July of last year (2012), Jill and I had travelled down to the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada to speak in three churches and to tell them about the mission work we do each year when we visit PNG for a couple of months.  It was exciting to share with them about the great work that God is doing through the ministry of Bible translation among the people groups of this tropical Pacific island.

When I was finished preaching and ready to leave the pulpit to go sit down in the audience, the pastor or elders of these three churches stopped me and said they wanted to pray for our work and for my health.  (Oh, and by the way, I normally could only stand up to speak for about 25 minutes, but these churches let me speak for almost 40 minutes straight.  And I found I didn’t even need to hold on to the pulpit for support.)

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So these church leaders asked me to stay at the front and had Jill come forward so that they could pray for us.  What was so cool was that in each of these churches, they felt very strongly prompted to call all the elders up and to lay hands on us and to specifically ask of God to bring healing into my life.  And guess what?  Within days, I found I was able to walk around a little more than before, and with less and less dependence upon my poles and crutches.  Hallelujah!!  Praise the Lord!!!  J

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Jill and I were certainly overjoyed to see this reversal of my symptoms, which doctors have been telling me would not happen.  But what doctors forget or do not recognize, is that we have the Great Physician on our side, and nothing is impossible for God.  The real question for us last summer was, “So what does God have in store for us, seeing as He is returning good health to Norm after not being able to walk much for four years.”

It was just after this time that I began to have correspondence with some of our mission leaders and those over in Papua New Guinea who were considering who they might recommend to be the various directors for our PNG Branch.  After a period of praying, I wrote and said that perhaps I could help out in the short-term until others were ready for leadership or were back from their time of furlough in the States.

To my surprise, the committee came back and asked me to consider letting my name stand to be nominated for the position of “Director of Language Affairs” (DLA).  Wow!!  What an honor that was, and at first we did not know if we should have me say “Yes”.  It would mean spending much more time in PNG than the three months per year I was doing.  And it would also mean that Jill and I would have some periods of being apart, seeing as Jill is still working as a nurse in a hospital back in Calgary.

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Convinced that this was from God though, we did say “Yes,” to the nomination.  And in less than a week after I came to PNG in January, our Branch held their annual meeting and I was voted in to be their DLA for the next two years.  Woo Hoo!!!  The official date for the transfer of office would not be until May 1st.  But that was not the only thing I would be doing, preparing to become the DLA, which would keep me busy for four months.  Next article I will tell you what one of my exciting tasks is that keeps bringing me back to PNG.

Listen Carefully To Jesus’ Words

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John 12: 44 – 50

44 Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

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As I read these verses above a few times, I could almost see Jesus crying out in a loud voice as he spoke.  It hit me that these were the last words that Jesus spoke publicly before He was arrested and put on trial.  It must have been so difficult for him as he realized that there were still many people back then who would reject his message, and so reject him as the One who could bring eternal life to them.

There was so much that Jesus had to offer for those who would accept him and his message.  There is the promise of eternal life with God which I just mentioned.  There is also the spiritual reality and truth that those who come to Jesus will not only see who Jesus really is, the Saviour for mankind, but also will come to know God the Father who sent Jesus to this world to save us.

And there is also the promise that those who accept and believe in Jesus will “not stay in darkness”.  Jesus is the true light for those who desire to be enlightened spiritually.  There are so many man-made attempts to become like God, or become “one with the Universe”.  But in Christianity, it works the other way.  Jesus is the true light who came down from Heaven to live among us and share this light with anyone who will put their trust in him.  So mankind does not need to reach out to try to find God, God has already reached out to us through his son, Jesus.

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There is something else that caught my attention as I read this passage.  It says in verse 47, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”  I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone in high school as we rode on the bus toward home.  He knew that I had expressed an interest in becoming a missionary one day so I could talk about Jesus to those people who had never heard about him and what he had done for all mankind.

He asked me some very pointed questions.  As background though, he started by saying, “So you want to tell others about Jesus so that they can have a chance to accept him and by that means be able to go to Heaven.”  I replied, “Yes.” to him.  He went on, “But you are saying that if the people hear about Jesus and decide to not accept him, then they will go to Hell.”  And I replied, “Right.”

And then he asked me, “Wouldn’t it be better to leave these primitive native people alone and let God decide out of his mercy to let them into Heaven if they have been good enough?  Rather than go and preach about Jesus and have them reject Jesus and for sure get sent to Hell?  Wouldn’t it be better to just leave them all alone?”

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My friend asked some good questions, at least from a human perspective.  For those of us who really do understand what Hell is really like, none of us would wish for anyone to be sent there.  Even God says in his Word that he wants, “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”(1 Tim. 2:3-4)  And yet in Jesus’ own words, he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I know how difficult this can be for many people, but the truth is that by our own acts of wrongdoing, in the words we speak, the thoughts we have and the actions we take in life, we find we are unable to stand before a holy God, who cannot allow sinful thoughts and behaviours to exist in his presence.  As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  And Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence for all mankind for their sinful nature is death, eternal spiritual death apart from God.

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Praise God though, that Jesus came to tell us that there is a way of escape for all of us.  For those who will accept the death of Jesus to be their substitute payment for their penalty of death, and who believe that Jesus rose from the grave to demonstrate his promise of life after death, then to us, Jesus brings us salvation and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven.

My friend, listen carefully to the words of Jesus.  Not only from these last words of his in the passage above, but in all the books of the Bible where he speaks to us about putting our faith in him.  Remember, he did not come to judge us of our sins, but to free us from them.  So accept him, and be free indeed.

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